I always wanted to be Acadian. For the longest time I thought I was Acadian. . . I spoke french, was born and raised in the St. John Valley, had a french last name. To my surprise, apparently Rossignol is not an Acadian last name. The first Rossignol’s immigrated from Rennes, France to the Kamarouska region of Québec. Many of my friends and maternal relatives had Acadian last names; Bouchard, LeBlanc, Violette, Cyr, Sirois, Cormier, Martin and Roy. So what’s the difference? Québécois or Acadian. I guess it really doesn’t matter, because it’s the spirit that we must capture. Why be Acadian? What’s so good about that, why should we want to celebrate our past heritage and culture or any culture? As a youngster being immersed in this Franco-American culture, I quickly realized that if I were to spend any quality time with my grandfather I’d better learn to speak his/our language or I felt that I would be missing out on a lot. It was Leon Rossignol who encouraged me to try to speak french and because I was able to understand and eventually speak our language we were able to share so many insightful conversations and delightful activities.
To me the spirit of the “Acadian’s” lives on in all of us today. The desire to live free, in a peaceable way while being fiercely independent, but relying on and helping others to live harmoniously with nature is at the core of the “Acadian ” values and heritage. The Acadian motto is; “L’union fait la force” or “Strength in unity”. One of the early Acadians main objectives was to remain neutral in the centuries long conflict between the French and British Empires over the new land of Acadia.
OUR HERITAGE. Acadians are people from France who settled in Acadia, now known as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and parts of Northern Maine in the early 17th century. From 1755 to 1763, during the “expulsion” or “Le Grand Dérangement” they were forcibly removed from their homeland by the British government and exiled to British colonies, including Louisiana. Dérangement translates to “upheaval,” “disorder,” or simply “trouble,” all of which accurately describe a series of events that began in the fall of 1755 on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. After the Treaty of Paris ended hostilities between France and England, Acadians were given permission to return to Acadia. Some Acadians who escaped the Deportation went to Québec and the St. John Valley and formed marriage alliances with French Canadians. The first families of Acadians and mixed Acadian/Québécois families arrived in the Madawaska territory and settled in St. David, Maine in 1785. The Heart of Maine’s Acadian culture is found in the St. John Valley, located in northern Maine it is home to a vibrant French population which traces its roots to Acadie and Québec. Attracted to the fertile soil edging the St. John river, the early settlers established a network of family farms. Many of these families still live in places like Madawaska, Fort Kent, Van Buren and Lille. A strong sense of place, a deep attachment to the Land and “the Valley” with its surrounding farms and woodlands, is reflected in the regions way of life and its persistence to the old ways. Although much has changed for the Acadians over the years, what has remained the same is their determination and perseverance as a people with a distinct identity and heritage, language and culture.
Those displaced Acadians surely must of longed for home, for their land, their families and loved ones, their way of life. Those early inhabitants of Acadia established a unique and worthwhile culture. A few years back I remember attending a concert by the noted Acadian band “1755” in Grand Falls, New Brunswick and half way through the super emotional song , “La Maudite Guerre” a friend of mine from the Mirimachi region of Canada looked at me with what looked like a tear in his eye, pounding his chest with his fist and saying; “je me sens “Chez Nous”( I feel that I am Home). There lies the beauty and essence of hanging on to your culture. It will allow you to always go home and be HOME, wherever you are.
The importance and relevance of cultivating culture can best be understood by finding and incorporating culture into our lives, which begins with understanding it. Only then can we begin to value it. From there we will learn to care for it and eventually enjoy it. With more enjoyment we will want to learn more and so the circle goes. Learning to respect and appreciate all cultures and their customs, their history, their people and their stories will, I believe lead to a world of cooperation, peace and prosperity.
The World Acadian Congress 2014 will involve an estimated 300,000 participants in various events, venues and locations, all celebrating families, a people, a land, a language and of course. . .a Culture!! Lets get involved, I promise it will be a good time. Come on HOME!! For more information visit; www.cma2014.com or www.FreshTrails.com for the congress’s signature cycling event, Tour de L’Acadie.